TOKYO : Officials from Japan's space agency said on Tuesday they have found more than the anticipated amount of soil and gases inside a small capsule the country's Hayabus2 spacecraft brought back from a distant asteroid this month, a mission they praised as a milestone in planetary research.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said its staff initially spotted some black particles sitting on the bottom of the capsule's sample catcher when they pulled out the container on Monday.

By Tuesday, scientists found more of the soil and gas samples in a compartment that stored those from the first of Hayabusa's two touchdowns on the asteroid last year.

We have confirmed a good amount of sand apparently collected from the asteroid Ryugu, along with gasses, JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda said in a video message during an online news conference. The samples from outside of our planet, which we have long dreamed of, are now in our hands.

Tsuda called the successful return of the asteroid soil and gas samples a major scientific milestone.''

The pan-shaped capsule, 40 centimeters [15 inches] in a diameter, was dropped by Hayabusa2 from space to a predetermined spot in a sparsely populated Australian desert on Dec 6 at the end of its six-year round trip to Ryugu, more than 300 million kilometres [190 million miles ] from Earth. [AP]


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